Thursday, 30 September 2010

Today


I cuddle your tiny body today because one day you'll be broad and strong;

I play with you today because one day you'll have playmates of your own;

I kiss your cheek today because one day you'll duck and cringe at public displays of affection;

I carry you on my hip today because one day your chubby legs will be lean and strong and carry you away;

I watch you sleep today because one day your waking and sleeping will be none of my concern and other arms will encircle you as you rest;

I photograph us together today because one day you'll only remember me as old;

I save our memories today because one day I'll be a memory too;

I tell you I love you today because my soul cannot contain my love for you and it will spill from my lips for as long as I shall live.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Better Man

On our first attempts at using the new camera, I took twenty pictures like this:


Whilst James, after reading the manual, took this:


Sometimes it's hard not to feel distinctly inadequate.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Understanding


As he left he stroked John's cheek and said "don't grow up too quickly, little boy," and for a moment it was as though we were thinking with one mind, just as we did when we were children.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Six Months Old


Little boy, you delight in the world and the world delights in you.

You are the happiest baby ever born; the one who will giggle uncontrollably at the wobble of a jiggly slipper and collapse at the sight of your mummy in a hat; the one who will bestow rapturous smiles on strangers in supermarkets, charm old ladies in churches, greet acquaintances as though they were favourite uncles and bewitch besotted grandparents with smiles.

You are the boy who sees all children as magicians and all babies as playmates, who giggles at his reflection in the mirror and chuckles at the first whisper of a 'boo'. You're the one whose smile is so wide that people stop in their tracks to grin, and whose delight in a smile returned manifests itself in arm-flapping, bottom-jumping and hiccups. You're the boy who laughs in his sleep.

Your presence brightens a room and your passion for life is limitless. You're an explorer and a discoverer, a wonderer and wriggler; a watcher, a babbler, a bouncy bundle of a boy.

Six months ago I could not anticipate the enthusiasm and elation that could be wrapped in such a tiny form or conceive of the boundless happiness that your presence could bring to my life.

You smile at the world and the world smiles back at you.

You are a joy; a miracle; an utterly perfect delight.

Friday, 24 September 2010

One Truth


Some days I honestly spend more time thinking about sleep than I do actually sleeping.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Lessons


This weekend I retreated to the comfortable safety of my childhood home to relax in an an environment of diminished responsibility and to learn three important lessons from my wise and wonderful mother:

1. Sometimes it's ok to look after myself too.

2. Recognition is so important to me that simply being told that I'm a good mummy can make me strive to be a better one.

3. The mysterious and long coveted art of knitting cannot be perfected in one afternoon, but can be mastered one stitch at a time.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

An Achievement (Of Sorts)


The health visitor laughs in disbelief every time my baby sits his little naked bottom on the scales and the numbers shoot up beyond the realms of expectation.

"Golly," she says as she makes a mark somewhere in the white space above the growth chart, "Well done you!"

I squirm silently at the praise and wonder how I can possibly presume to take credit for the robust good health of my boy.

It wasn't through choice that I had a large baby, it wasn't with grace that I birthed him, it wasn't through skill that he latched on and it wasn't with effort that he grew.

I'm privileged rather than proud to have breastfed him for the first six months of his life and I feel blessed rather than boastful at his growth.

Nevertheless, as his six month anniversary rolls in and I begin to nourish him with sustenance from outside my own body, I can't help toying with a feeling of pride.

Because growing this bouncing 22lb boy has been hard work at times and there are achievements worth celebrating along the way: I did keep going when nursing him made me cry out in pain and sob silently as he sucked, I do still get up four times a night to nurse him back to sleep, I haven't ever spent more than two hours away from him in his life and I have had to flash my breasts at strangers whilst feeding him in public.

And whilst these trials might be negligible compared with the awesome privilege of nourishing and nurturing my baby skin to skin, they mean that I can feel a flush of fulfillment when I see him rolling naked on the bed and can allow myself a secret smile when mothers marvel at my huge and healthy boy (who's now the size of an average one-year-old) and suggest that he ought to be a poster-boy for the 'breast is best' campaign.

Feeding my babe might not be an outstanding accomplishment or work of creative genius and it might not win me prizes or earn me cash and acclaim, but it's what I spend my days and nights doing at the moment, and at the end of the long and thankless day it's an achievement (of sorts).

Friday, 17 September 2010

A Quick Fix


Sometimes the urge for achievement becomes so pressing that I have to abandon everything and appease my creative cravings with cake.

It's a quick fix, but not only does the the sight of a freshly baked chocolate orange cake make me shiver with satisfaction but the taste of it puts the unfinished chores into perspective too.

Taking mere minutes to put together and affording hours of gratification, Nigella's Store cupboard Chocolate Orange Cake (from How To Be a Domestic Goddess) was stickily delicious and densely intense.

I took it upon myself to add the thick chocolate orange icing because extra chocolate is always a welcome addition and really, I always think that the icing makes the cake...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Holding On



As apples ripen, shadows lengthen and leaves start to speckle the grass, we find ourselves being drawn outside once again to bask in the slanted rays of soft September sunshine.

On this little patch of grass that has hosted our playtime all summer long we again unfurl our rug, scatter our toys and lay back to watch the leaves dance to the rhythm of the clouds.

John explores the texture of damp moss, I breathe in the scent of fermenting plums and together we watch flocks of birds whorl suddenly over the roof tops.

Autumn might be unfurling its glory all around us but we're holding onto this little summer ritual with all the strength in our fingertips and the memory of the wintry wind that whipped the windows last night somehow makes it all the sweeter whilst it lasts.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Restless


Very often, before we go to bed James says "We've achieved a lot today" and I feel a little part of me curl into a ball of regret and harden into a seed of resentment.

Because despite the fact that jobs have been struck from the 'to do' list and progress has been made on the house I can't help but feel frustrated.

I haven't saved £200 by fixing the leaking the boiler, I haven't erected a new bedroom wall (or torn down an old one either) I haven't mastered the art of plumbing, and I haven't created lesson plans or done exercise or even cleaned the kitchen.

Instead, I've spent my day blowing raspberries, tickling tummies, making up impromptu rhymes and kissing chubby cheeks.

And whilst such achievements might feel quite legitimate on a quiet day when John and I potter around these rooms alone, they somehow pale into insignificance when hammer blows are ringing from the roof, and are made foolish by the forward march of progress.

I'm ever yearning for the gratification that comes from creation and there's a restlessness that rages within me on weeks when there's no time to bake, sew or write and I have nothing visible to show for my days.

And even though I know that time spent playing with my baby is time well spent indeed, I crave the satisfaction that comes from ticking jobs off a list and seeing something concrete that's been created by my hand and mind.

So today, my own personal to-do list reads like this:

* play peek-a-boo
* sing songs
* read stories
* take a walk
* watch the clouds
* play with our toys
* laugh out loud

And tonight, when James says "we've achieved a lot today," I'm going to look at my sleeping boy and say "Yes, yes we have."

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Who?


Who taught my baby to giggle
And how did he learn how to sit?
Who helped him to uncurl his fingers
And master their use bit by bit?

How is it that yesterday's baby
Today is a bright bouncing boy?
The miracle's not of my making
Though I've watched it unfold with great joy.

One day I will teach him his letters
And pass on the things that I know,
But for now someone else is his teacher
And I'm simply watching him grow.

I was scared of becoming a mother
Not sure I'd stand up to the test,
But I'm learning my job's just to love him
Because God's taking care of the rest.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Back to School


Last week we slid unceremoniously back into term time in a haze of sickness and a daze of exhaustion. The endless stretch of the summer holidays had slipped away and suddenly we were faced with a new routine of early mornings, quiet afternoons and bustle before bedtime.

I expected the change to leave me unsettled, but the sun's taken my hand and led me so gently into autumn that the stress of the new school year seems distant.

Yes, I'm sad that the promise of summer has gone, and yes, I'm sorry to see James back at school, but at the same time there's a calm that comes from slowing our pace and a contentment in low expectations.

Today, as the sun shone lazily through hazy skies and leaves flushed crimson in the heat, we sat quietly beside the Mere. I read a few pages in the stillness of the afternoon air, John slept with his feet in the sun and together we basked in the pleasure of an ordinary day.

Loneliness and monotony might be chasing my heels and isolation might be lurking behind the next rain cloud but for now I'm enjoying the swan song of summer and taking care to appreciate the calm before the storm.

Monday, 6 September 2010

For One Night Only


At four in the morning, after three long hours of fitfully refusing his cot, he finally settled himself to sleep in our bed.

I lay awkwardly in the little space between him and the edge of the bed watching him grapple with that elusive enemy sleep and listening to his groans fading and re-forming like waves.

I felt his chest rise and fall beneath my hand, I watched his eyelids flicker as he slipped between sleeping and waking and I waited patiently for slumber to descend.

When we awoke to the dim light of dawn my body felt stiff but my soul felt rested.

I know that co-sleeping is not really for us and that bad habits are easily formed, but in those few stolen hours my babe and I had slept heart to heart and for one night only it was bliss.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A Birthday


Fruit salad, pastries and presents; the delight of unexpected flowers; the ebb and flow of elation that birthdays inevitably bring.

A mean stranger in a car park; a short shower of tears; lunch at the Corn Mill with family; sharing the joy of my boy.

A modest win on a scratchcard; immodest delight at my win; the rich, gooey happiness of sticky toffee pudding; a surprise in a big silver box.

A walk between stones so permeated with prayer that their pores still seep with peace; remembering the brilliance of my brothers; connecting from far, far away.

The quiet relief of a sleeping baby; a glass of something with fizz; an excellent choice of movie; an hour or two with my man.

The realisation that I'm thirty; a quick catch in my heart at the thought; the cool relief of being exactly where I wanted; the burning certainty that there's so much more to come...

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Milestones


"Oh wow," says James, "A tooth!"

"Really?" I say wearily, the sound echoing around the cavern of my skull. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, definitely!" he says with enough enthusiasm for us both, "He's got a tooth! His first tooth!"

A tear slips down my cheek and seasons the corn that I'm boiling on the hob.

I wipe it away, dry my hands and walk over to validate the existence of the tooth. It's a tiny white pinnacle, hiding in the wetness beneath his tongue.

"Yes," I say quietly. "I can't believe he's got a tooth."

"This is amazing," James babbles happily, "I don't know why you're not more excited."

I'm too exhausted to be excited and too overwhelmed to be overjoyed.

Because this morning my baby learnt how to roll and I've spent the day chasing him across the living room floor and wondering when he will crawl.

I know that progress is important and moments like this are momentous, but today the tides of change are flowing faster than my tired brain can process and whilst one milestone is something I can just about cope with, two is simply too much.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Bounty


I'm daunted by the responsibility that comes from being blessed with such a bounteous harvest.